Insights From C-Store Employees

Oftentimes, new talent comes from people entering the workforce for the very first time, or from those searching for second jobs to supplement their income. NACS uncovered insights from in-depth interviews with 35 successful people who at one time in their work career worked in a convenience store. All the findings are published in a NACS Magazine feature, “Grow Your Career Here.”

For many, their c-store experience was their first job and it left a lasting impression. There were three key takeaways from the interviews: 

  • Working in a convenience store offers a beneficial experience. Virtually everyone interviewed reflected positively on their experiences, and today view their past challenges as growth opportunities. 
  • Convenience store jobs provide a great training ground for developing people skills. Nearly all respondents said learning how to serve frequent and new customers, as well as work with other employees, gave them a leg up throughout their career. 
  • Customer interactions are central to the convenience store experience. Stories about their time interacting with customers are the most common top-of-mind recollection about the job and “the customers” tend to be the most common enjoyable aspect they recall. Former c-store employees overwhelmingly preferred interactions with customers to those with their co-workers. 

Although the convenience retailing landscape has dramatically changed since most of the survey respondents worked in a store, there were a few noticeable themes woven throughout the interviews. For example: Convenience store jobs can teach you how to interact with people, especially the customers—a skill that is transferable to virtually any career.

Receiving a paycheck was an obvious reason these individuals took a convenience store job, but another attribute they cite is convenience. Almost one-third said convenient location or work hours factored into their decision to work in the store: Ten respondents said they decided to take the job because of the store’s proximity to their home and the flexible working hours, especially for high school and college students.

Among the respondents who said they were looking for a new experience, one felt that a c-store was an obvious starting point. “I thought it would be [exciting],” said an interviewee who worked at a Florida convenience store at age 18. “It was my first real job, and why not start at a convenience store or gas station?”

half of the respondents said they were promoted during their time working at a convenience store, from a cashier to an assistant shift manager and to store manager.

Twenty of the 35 respondents said that they found more value in interacting with customers rather than their fellow co-workers. When NACS asked them how their experiences working at a convenience store helped them later in life, most said they learned how to interact with people.

Several respondents shared how their early convenience store experiences helped shaped their career path:

  • “It makes you more grounded.”
  • “It gave me management skills.”
  • “It gave me a patience and tolerance that I otherwise would not have had.”
  • “It taught me the responsibility of having a job, going to work, getting to work on time, how to deal with taking direction.”
  • “Lots of problem-solving. If something breaks, you have to fix it.”
  • “It gave me a job where I was able to deal with people, and I learned to communicate with people.”
  • “There’s a whole style of leadership that comes out of those early customer interactions.”
  • “Solving problems is the most fun I’ve had throughout my career … I love solving problems, and I learned that from being in a convenience store.” 

While the career paths that respondents have taken since their time working in the convenience industry vary from health care to real estate, they all suggest that their experiences have benefitted their careers and success today.

These former employees all had positive memories about a lesson—or two or three—the convenience store industry taught them, whether it was how businesses operate or how to manage a business. Most of all, they shared that the industry and the jobs that support it are about relating to customers and making them feel welcome, which are skills that are always in demand.